Where’s Cargo?

Where's Bakfiets?

My friend and former colleague Alex in Vancouver sent this picture of a Workcycles Cargobike buried under a tasteless display of kickballs in a Whole Foods organic grocery store. Wouldn’t it be better to just ride it, or maybe loan/rent it to customers?

Perhaps I’ll get flamed for my insensitivity toward the nation of Canadia but I think the last time I posted about my former neighbors to the north was this equally unconventional use of a Cargobike in 2007: New Military Cargobike Transporter from Canada.

Cargobike in Vancouver, BC on a Unimog

And then there was this one, not in Canadia but in nearby Chicagoia, that got a couple readers’ panties in big, uncomfortable bunches thanks to my general lack of sensitivity. Me being a glutton for punishment will just remind the world of it. Enjoy. Unclear on the Concept: Cargobike Style.


Meanwhile we’re working on a really fantastic new Cargobike. But I can’t say so much about it yet. Except that it’s really awesome in lots of ways. Stay tuned.

19 Responses to “Where’s Cargo?”

  1. Cecily Says:

    That Whole Foods bakfiets has been there as long as the store has been there (about 3-4 years) and I’ve never once seen anyone ride it. It’s sad. It’s also sad that we don’t seem to have any Workcycles dealers in Vancouver anymore.

  2. henry Says:

    Oh, that’s sadder than I figured, and not a very good use of a $3000 bike.

    Rain City Bikes sold Workcycles for a while but they changed their focus and then the shop was sold a while back. We do occasionally send a bike to a customer in Vancouver but I’ve no idea whether we’ll have a dealer there in the foreseeable future. It’s just not one of the cities we hear from frequently.

    Importing an individual bike to Canada is also quite difficult thanks to Canadian customs. Their paperwork and requirements have become stricter and more unnavigable than just about any land aside from Australia.

    Right now we’re working on setting up with an outfit in Montreal who’ll import the bikes to Canada and then sell them across the country. If and when that becomes a reality we’ll make it public.

  3. Alex in Canada Says:

    The headline leaves me a bit baffled: “Where’s bakfiets?”

    Well, duh …. It’s right next to the seafood aisle storing happy face, non-GMA, free range, organic kickballs. Hey, wait a minute here….

    I’ve a feeling we’re not in Amsterdam anymore….

  4. henry Says:

    Is “Where’s Cargo?” better? I was thinkin’ “Where’s Waldo” since the bakfiets is almost invisible. I guess that wasn’t clear.

    Do you miss just plain old buying a ball, BPA, GMA, CPA, MGB and all, Amsterdam style?

  5. Hjalmar Says:

    Will the new cargobike be good for carrying cellos? It´s been a while now since we talked about cello-transport possibilities by bike, but I haven´t given up. Keep us posted, and before long I hope!

  6. henry Says:

    Hjalmar, A cello should be easy, a contrabass… well, we’ll have to try that. The front frame will also be available in an Extra long version, for (non-human) cargo applications. No, it won’t be quite as long as the famous Cargobike Extra Extra Long.

  7. Hjalmar Says:

    Hi again,

    yesterday, on the Norwegian national day, celebrated with lots of parades and happy children despite the atrocious weather, I spotted a workcycles omafiets parked next to the parade. I couldn´t stay to see who´s bike it was, and I am now extremely curious as to how it got here, do you have a Norwegian dealer, and how would a private import pan out?

  8. Todd Edelman Says:

    Henry, I think you should put a unique QR code on every bike so that all these casual immigration officials can impress their friends.

  9. henry Says:

    We have no dealer in Norway but we do periodically send bikes there. Unlike some other countries like Canada and Australia we haven’t heard of any problems with the import process. Needing to do the customs paperwork does make it somewhat more expensive but it’s otherwise straightforward. Shipping a single bike to Norway is of course also not cheap.

    Send us a note at [email protected] and we can discuss.

  10. Jenn Says:

    I do find it funny that the people with the Suburban bought an extremely expensive bike from someone who then proceeded to make fine sport of them internationally. Good fun for sure and better twice over. Ho, ho!

    I do find it funny also that Henry makes an excellent living in a country with phenomenal infrastructure for family cycling that was in place decades before he arrived in Holland. Imagine if the people with the Suburban ( as per Steven’s comment on the original picture post) are riding their bike in Michigan traffic where they probably get a daily dose of abuse hurled from everyone around them and they just keep riding. More power to them. I’d love to see Henry experience working every day for years to try get just one protected lane for his kid to ride to the park here in Chicago. We should all smirk from Amsterdam instead I guess.

    It’s unlikely that some who comment on this blog could comfortably spend a day trying to use a bike with their children for transportation in the American Midwest…we’d love to host you if you want to give it a try.

    By the way – the bike shop in Chicago that carried Workcycles, where the Michigan family bought the Dutch bike they drove home, is now shuttered… hope that Jon Lind has more luck with Henry’s bikes…

    If I could get a VanAndel Bakfiets- or direct the people who I have sent his way to a different distributor I would.

  11. Amsterdamize Says:

    Jenn, there’s absolutely no reason/need for this snide response, Henry often-to-always has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. Just check at least 10 random posts to acknowledge this fact.

  12. Jenn Says:

    again…. I think that it’s easy to stand across the ocean in a social democracy with oodles of cycling infrastructure you never had to fight for and never will and make fun of people twice that need to take a bike home on a car. I’m not snide. I’m being honest. We would love to host if you would like to see what it’s like to build a not even decent network for cyclists when compared to any Northern European network from scratch in Chicago.

    It’s not tongue in cheek. Just an easy target to run again. ..often in ize and en meer thinking that American bike culture is pitiful– as if we don’t know.

    The extra helping on this photo surely means a slow week at Bakfiets En Meer and bait I should not take but.. a far more interesting post would be about how this family is using that bike in what is probably an unimaginably for you inhospitable environment. (unless of course, it’s Minneapolis.)

    A typical comment I’ve gotten cycling with my sleeping son in my box bike through Chicago was: “He is so cute asleep– and how great that he comes in his own coffin.” The last thing someone commuting with kids here needs is crummy flack twice after buying a seriously expensive bike from the very guy who sold it to us.

  13. henry Says:

    You’re taking me to task for a three year old post on the basis of a heap of incorrect assumptions and value judgments.

    For the record:
    1. I’m not making fun of anybody. I’m making fun of some funny photos dripping with opposing cultural metaphors. There are no names named, people or other identifying features visible. If the owner of that bike/SUV was insulted rather than seeing the irony in the image and laughing along that’s really unfortunate.

    2. Well, maybe I am actually making fun of the Whole Foods staff for the crappy display above.

    3. You seem to assume that I’m somehow passing judgement in that old post. Incorrect. Informal marketing aside we don’t concern ourselves with what kinds of people buys our bikes and how they use them. We sell and service bikes for families rich and poor and companies small and large.

    Maybe the truck is borrowed and once back home this family will ride the cargobike 24/7 shuttling organic vegetables and children about while rescuing abused animals… and that would be great. Or maybe the bike will be parked in a big garage filled with other fun vehicular toys and be ridden to the park a few sunny sundays each year, and that would be great too. I also have several bikes and a motorcycle I only ride occasionally for fun.

    4. I don’t “make an excellent living” and there’s no way you could possibly know anything about my personal income. My family does have a lovely life here in Amsterdam but it would take at least a couple years of our our take-home income to pay for a Chevy Suburban. A decade ago I quit a safe, good paying corporate job and now we work our asses off building quality bikes in the NL with razor thin margins in a world overflowing with cheap imports from Asia. It’s fun but always frustrating and it can make one rather cynical, if he didn’t already start out that way.

    5. I’m all too familiar with the state of cycling in your part of the world. As you seem to know I’m also an American and I grew up in a family of cyclists fighting our way through New York on bikes. I’ve been run off the road countless times, had a full coke bottle thrown at the back of my head, been beat up by thugs and friends of mine have been deliberately maimed and killed by motorists.

    That’s all really sad and terrible but what point are you trying to make here? That we can’t have a little fun with our cycling? That we should always verbalize our gratitude for your sacrifice? Humor, of the ironic sort or not, doesn’t equate to a “smirk from Amsterdam”. Don’t put those words in my mouth.

    6. Yes, Dutch Bike Chicago closed last year and the reasons are equally mysterious to us. One day it was open and apparently going well. The next day I got a message that it was closing.

    7. Quick posts like this one don’t mean a slow week at Bakfiets-en-Meer; they mean no time for “serious” blogging because I run a company and have two little kids. Still I like to periodically put something up between the big posts that take hours I don’t always have.

    “a far more interesting post would be about how this family is using that bike in what is probably an unimaginably for you inhospitable environment.” With all due respect this sounds like a post better suited to your own blog. It’s a great topic but just not what I do.

    8. So are you the owner of that bike and SUV in the photo, as you’re implying in your last comment?

  14. Amsterdamize Says:

    Jenn, dare I say it: you’re misinformed and very mistaken we did fight for it (after paying a high price for not having it, with children’s lives…) & we still do, it would be naive to think that things like bike infra & pro-bike policies just fall into place with wishful thinking.

    I don’t know what you mean by ‘social democracy’, but what you imply with it I feel safe putting it on the big pile of misconceptions and myths.

    “Just an easy target to run again. ..often in ize and en meer thinking that American bike culture is pitiful– as if we don’t know.”

    ‘Pitiful’ is really in your head, not mine. Apparently you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been helping out North American bike culture as much as I possibly can. If I thought it was pitiful, I wouldn’t have spent one minute of my time or money on it.


    There are tons of other things I could put forward to make that point, but I believe you first owe me an apology.

  15. Jenn Says:

    I do think it might take more work to see what the family with the Suburban is doing with that bike than to republish a photo you know well gets complaints.

    Taking the bait again no I am not sorry about pointing out that neither Amsterdamize’s writer nor Henry has had to do the daily work it takes to grow the kind of transportation cycling infrastructure that both blog authors wake up to every morning. I wish more often that we could hear from the older Dutch citizens who masterminded the changes as I have much more in common with them.

    No I don’t own the Suburban in the picture and I don’t imply that.

    What I say is that it’s easy to poke fun from your perspective. It is part of the writing of Bakfiets En Meer and Ize sites to comment sometimes somewhat down your noses at times about underdeveloped cycling ” culture” here.

    If I am not mistaken with all due respect Amsterdamize’s author was not a grown -up during the emergence of the cycling lanes in Holland an did not need to attend the meetings, push the legislation, paint the sidewalk or ride in the traffic that is a constant if you live where transportation cycling is in it’s earliest stages.

    Wisely Henry has move to where this exists. I have also lived in Europe and travel there often. Both authors wake up to cities welcome to cyclists . Changing my city so my children can wake up to this infrastructure in Chicago is a daily task for any Chicagoans working to make real infrastrucutre a reality. I know well — as do my kids ” it doesn’t fall into place. ”

    Visiting another nation with suggestions though kind isn’t the same experience.

    One major reason that selling cargo bikes and transportation bikes in general in Chicago is difficult is that there is no family friendly infrastructure to commute to school or shopping on for a typical family. Box bikes are a major cost investment for anyone. Riding it around while people hurl more than the a bottle at you and your kid is whole different experience. It can be pretty funny though and mostly anyone I know here that bikes with their kids laughs it off.

    As Henry knows if he has read my writing I suggest to anyone interested in making that investment to ride everything they can to see what works.

    I ride a Van Andel Bakfiets and have found that it is incredibly dependable and worth every penny I ever paid. Which is what I tell anyone who stops me and asks about my bike. Plenty of those pennies for sure ended up in Henry’s pocket. As have those of family riders with a Bakfiets who have borrowed my bike countless times in the last four and a half years before buying their own.

    I don’t know the family in the picture but for sure if they are using that bike to get places at all they are unavoidably a rolling advert for Henry’s enterprise.

    Poking fun with the picture once is one thing. But it seems too easy to do it twice and then say I’m the one with no sense of humor when I’m silly enough to justify it with any comment.

    I don’t know that I ever do “serious” blogging but writing that is funny takes a little more work than publishing that picture twice.

  16. Dylan Says:

    Once upon a time the road belonged to the horse and cart. Both the bicycle and the automobile are products of evolution. In 1885 John Kemp Starley builds what is widely considered the first modern bicycle (with a steerable front wheel, two equally-sized wheels, and a chain drive to the rear wheel) In that same year Karl Benz builds what is widely considered the first modern automobile (powered by gasoline and a cylinder engine).

    The bicycle has always been an afforable means of transport and was very popular before people could afford an automobile. It was the eventual affordability and availablity of the automobile that made it popular and subsequently the roads unsafe for cyclists. In the end nothing truly belongs to anybody and we must all ‘share the road’, cycle paths help make that ideology a safe reality for everybody.

    Whole Foods use of the bakfiets in that particular image is questionable, are they promoting the use of a bicycle, or is it simply a piece of furniture or a fashion accessory ? When the bicycle is relegated to the background, so as not to be taken seriously, that in turn enforces the myth of cycling being unsafe compared to using a car. The car on the other hand does not have to fight against anything to validate itself.

    Although on this blog I am probably preaching to the converted….. check out the Yehuda Moon comic where he starts painting his on sharrows on the roads, fantastic !

  17. Aimee Says:

    I am curious about this new cargo bike you are hinting at. We are planning a summer vacation to visit Holland and to stop by your shop and pick up a cargo bike for my family to use. We live in Paris and were thinking the short Bakfiet would be a good fit for our family of four. But now you have me curious that perhaps you have a new option in cargo bikes that might work? I think I may have to call your shop soon and have a chat with someone. I can’t decide what will be the best option for us in Paris the short or long Bakfiet or maybe your new cargo bike? 😉

  18. Freddie Says:

    A bit late in here, but to the first picture – that is the most common way to use a cargobike where those are uncommon on the roads. They attract attention to themselves, and are thus popular as “billboards” for advertising. Economically; it’s cheaper to buy one of those instead of a couple of weeks of advertisement on the metro, they have a higher rate of attraction compared to said advertisements and the investment has a definitive return – the bike stays in the shop’s ownership, and can also be sold after its done its job – altough the return of the investment is usually higher the longer its used as a billboard.

    FYI: I’m talking about “permanently” parked cargo-bikes – not ones that are actually driven around as moving billboards!

  19. James Says:

    That Bakfiets is still parked there at Whole Foods, only now I think it’s full of plastic buckets and spades! Maybe i’ll fill it up with groceries so they get an idea of the possibilities. So typical of a big (American) company to miss the whole potential of a bike like that. Capers (the food chain they bought out in Vancouver) would have used it for deliveries for sure. Go back to Texas WF!

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